WASHINGTON - The Senate will begin today a week of sound and fury that might signify the fate of health care reform, including a number of "life or death" measures for the biotech industry.

Senators, their staffs, and thousands of lobbyists, having digested over the weekend a Senate leadership bill rivaling the Manhattan Yellow Pages in size, will start the process of debating and amending Democratic leader George Mitchell's amalgamation of bills passed by the Senate Finance and Labor Committees. The process, which may not be complete until the third week of August, will determine whether health care legislation can be passed in this congressional session and will give a sense of its parameters.

The bill retains provisions considered onerous by the biotechnology industry, but couples them to provisions that might be construed as concessions to the industry. In total, Biotechnology Industry Organization President Carl Feldbaum told BioCentury, "it's not a good bill for us."

The private sector

The legislation acknowledges that private sector investment in research and development has been responsible for the "vast majority" of health care advances, and warns that "global health care budgets may constrict private sector investment in research and development."